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Lyon nearly embarrassed by missing Dockers

Post-match: Freo Watch Fremantle coach Ross Lyon's post-match press conference
If you knew you were going to finish third, you wouldn’t be going to play in a regional centre
Ross Lyon on a prospective final at Geelong

FREMANTLE coach Ross Lyon knows he dodged a bullet late on Saturday afternoon.

Had the Brisbane Lions gone two points better and beaten Geelong, Lyon would have returned to Perth and been asked to explain why he sent such a sub-par line-up to Etihad Stadium to play St Kilda. One that never had a shot of winning.

A full-strength Dockers line-up would almost certainly have beaten St Kilda and had the Lions won, the Dockers would have finished second and guaranteed themselves two home finals.

"I get the interest. It would have been a different conversation if we'd lost," Lyon admitted after the 71-point loss to St Kilda at Etihad Stadium.

"We took the risk, so clearly we were comfortable with it."

Lyon mounted a fairly compelling case as to why he decided to leave 10 of his best players at home and then withdraw two more from the side on the morning of the match.

He said he was guided by his experience at St Kilda in 2009, where he left nine players out of a side that played (and still beat) Hawthorn in Tasmania three weeks out from the finals, and which helped his team stay fresh in the finals.

And he studied what Mark Harvey's Fremantle did the next year when he rested half his side two weeks out from the finals.

That was also from trip to Tasmania and the benefits were again apparent the following week and in the finals.

Lyon explained that Fremantle is unable to leave Perth next weekend at its preferred time, so by the time his players arrive in Melbourne two nights before facing the Cats, it would be close to midnight before they get to their hotel and get to sleep. 

"West Australian teams are unique, there's no doubt about that. You get delayed on the tarmac, that's 5.30, three hour flight, you land and adjust your clock when you land and its 10.30 and you get to the hotel at 11.15," he said.

Lyon said that Fremantle is facing the same schedule next week for the trip to Melbourne, or as increasingly likely, to Geelong, for the qualifying final, so player management and avoiding unnecessary travel, becomes a huge part of the club's preparation.

"It is significant to do it (travel) back to back," he added, saying that his assistant coach Peter Sumich also advised of the difficulties his West Coast teams used to face in the days when would regularly fly to Victoria in consecutive weeks.

"When you travel in alternative weeks for the whole year, it doesn’t really stack up in your first final when you have to travel back to back. Hence the management."

The players who were left behind did a controlled training session on Saturday morning, with some of the club's senior conditioning staff remaining behind in Perth to supervise.

Those who played against St Kilda, and who will play against Geelong next week, had their time rotated carefully.

Defender Clancee Pearce has been all but ruled out of the qualifying final after straining his calf in the opening 30 seconds against St Kilda.

Forward Chris Mayne was withdrawn from the side to rest while defender Garrick Ibbotson failed a fitness test on his injured Achilles before the game and now hasn’t played for five weeks.

Defender Luke McPharlin is expected to return to the side for the finals having not played since round 13 because of a calf injury and Lyon said that skipper Matthew Pavlich is ready for the finals after a four-week lead in.

Ruckman Aaron Sandilands got through the match against the Saints without doing much, but got a tick from the coach nonetheless. "He'll be better for the run," Lyon said.

As for the prospect of playing the Cats at Simonds Stadium, the coach repeated the club's stance about the importance of the club's members and supporters being given every opportunity to purchase tickets.

From a footballing point of view, he said the Dockers were an "anywhere, anytime team."

"We’ll go and play, but I guess at the start of the year, if you knew you were going to finish third, you wouldn’t be going to play in a regional centre when there is a metropolis with world-class venues," Lyon said.